White House Press Secretary’s 90% Drop in Illegal Immigration Reports Needs Context

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was discussing a new program that has reduced illegal immigration from four countries by 90 percent.

During a May 1 press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked how President Joe Biden wants to “address this illegal immigration challenge.” As part of his answer to this question, Jean-Pierre highlighted the achievements of the immigration programs implemented by the current administration.

“And that’s why you’ve seen the probation program be so successful,” said Jean-Pierre. “He’s got — when it comes to illegal migration, you’ve seen it go down over 90%, and that’s because of this act — the actions that this president has taken.”

Several VERIFY readers on Instagram and Twitter asked if the publicist’s statement was true.


Has illegal immigration decreased by more than 90%?



Illegal immigration as a whole has not decreased by 90%. However, Jean-Pierre didn’t talk about immigration as a whole. He was discussing the success of a specific program, which applies only to migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti. In the first two months of this year, there has been a 98% drop in undocumented migrants from those countries.


Typically, when people refer to illegal immigration totals at any given time, they are referring to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data on the monthly meetings CBP officials have with illegal immigrants in the United States. While it’s not the same as the total number of undocumented migrants entering the United States each month, it’s the best data available, and it’s the data usually referred to by government officials. So we’ll use that data for this story.

Data from a March CBP news release shows that meetings between ports of entry fell 42% between December 2022, when meetings were at their recent peak, and February 2023, when meetings were at their recent low.

But Jean-Pierre was talking about a specific program when he referred to the 90% drop.

“Karine was saying that meetings were down because of our parole programs, which apply to Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti,” a White House Press Office spokesperson told VERIFY in an email. .

According to CBP’s March press release, the seven-day average of CBP meetings between ports of entry with individuals from these four countries decreased by 98 percent between January 5 and February 28.

The parole program allows individuals from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti to apply to travel to and stay in the United States with a “temporary period of probation” for up to two years. To qualify, a migrant must have someone in the United States who agrees to provide the migrant with financial support during the length of their stay, says US Citizenship and Immigration Services. At the end of these two years, parolees may choose to apply for existing legal immigration pathways for which they may be eligible, including a parole extension, immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, asylum, and status of temporary protection (TPS).

This program was announced on January 5 and went into effect on January 6.

Parole is when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily allows certain migrants to physically enter or stay in the United States if there are “urgent humanitarian or public service reasons” to do so, says the American Immigration Council.

This program is intended to provide “safe, orderly, and legal routes” to the United States for people who may otherwise have entered the United States illegally.

Republican attorneys general in 20 states filed a lawsuit Jan. 24 to shut down the program. The attorneys general say DHS “effectively created a new visa program, without the formalities of Congressional legislation.” They say their states are harmed by allowing so many migrants to “enter each of their already overwhelmed territories.”

Proponents of the program say it is legal, and suing states have not contested a similar program involving Ukrainians. Proponents say the program “represents one of the few remaining safe and viable routes to the United States” and without it “the situation at the border will become increasingly chaotic”.

A decision on the lawsuit has yet to be made by the US District Court overseeing the lawsuit.

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